|Three Claim Clergy Sexual Abuse in Suit
Dallas: Catholic Diocese Barred Monsignor Last Summer after Complaint
By Sam Hodges
Dallas Morning News
May 16, 2007
Another clergy sex-abuse lawsuit has been filed against the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, this time with three plaintiffs.
The men claim to have been molested years ago by Monsignor Richard E. Johnson.
Last summer, the diocese acknowledged verifying a sexual-abuse complaint against Monsignor Johnson, then at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Lake Highlands. The diocese barred him from ministry. He was already at retirement age.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Dallas County district court, alleges that Monsignor Johnson abused one of the plaintiffs beginning in late 1963 or 1964, while a priest at St. Luke Catholic Church in Irving. The plaintiff was 14 years old when the abuse began, and it continued for three years, the suit claims.
Another plaintiff says that he was about 10 years old when he began to be abused by Monsignor Johnson at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church in Dallas, beginning in 1973 or 1974, and continuing for about five years.
A third plaintiff alleges that he was nearly 12 when Monsignor Johnson began to abuse him, again at St. Bernard. The abuse began in 1978 and continued – two to four times a month – through 1984, the suit claims.
The suit charges negligence by diocese officials and asks for actual and punitive damages.
Tahira Khan Merritt, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said the diocese got a complaint about Monsignor Johnson in 2001 but allowed him to remain active in the priesthood through 2006.
The diocese issued the following statement late Tuesday:
"In 2001, an allegation was made against Msgr. Johnson. The diocese followed its protocol and immediately notified civil authorities. However, it did not merit his removal at that time. In 2006, another allegation resulted in his immediate removal from ministry. We are disappointed the plaintiff's attorney filed this lawsuit at a time when the diocese was working with the victims who came forward in 2006. The petition mischaracterizes and includes false statements regarding what was reported in 2001."
The diocese and its insurers have paid out more than $45 million to sex abuse victims.
This is the first such suit filed against the diocese since Bishop Kevin Farrell became its top official this month.
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